China’s Tianwen-1 probe is steadily approaching the end of its journey to Mars. Now only 1.1 million kilometres away the craft has sent its first image of the red planet back to Earth.
A new look at Mars
The China National Space Administration provided an update on Tianwen-1’s progress last Friday. Along with this came the first image the probe has taken of Earth’s neighbour.
The image is a black and white snapshot taken by Tianwen-1 when it was 2.2 million km away.
While lacking the iconic red colour, this is still a cool new look at Mars. The Guardian even pointed out that you can see the Schiaparelli crater and the Valles Marineris canyons on Mars’ surface.
Tianwen-1 has been travelling for 197 days after launching last July. It is now approximately 465 million kilometres away from Earth, the agency said.
It aims to perform a braking maneuver to enter Mars’ orbit on February 10. The probe will orbit Mars for a matter of months before attempting to land on the surface.
The probe is equipped with an orbiter and a landing capsule. In May, the rover will land on a large impact basin on the planet’s surface known as the Utopia Planitia. The mission is intending to map the mineral composition of Mars’ surface and search for water deposits.
Other Mars missions this month
The Tianwen-1 is one of three missions arriving at Mars in March. The United Arab Emirates Al Amal/Hope spacecraft is set to enter Mars’ orbit a day earlier than Tianwen-1 on February 9.
NASA’s Perseverance rover is set to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18. This ambitious mission will collect samples of the planet’s surface and return them to Earth for further study.
If Tianwen-1 successfully lands on Mars in May, it will make China only the third country to have landed on the red planet. The United States and the Soviet Union have been the only others to land a craft on Mars.